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‘Pinnacle season’ of the Cedar Summerstock Theater is on its way

You can’t say that Cedar Summerstock Theater doesn’t adapt.

After cancelling its 2020 season due to the pandemic, there was no way Cedar Summerstock founder and artistic director Nancy Lee and crew was going to let the 2021 summer pass by without live musical theater.

And so it will be – big time. “Seussical,” a fun look at the famous children’s author, Dr. Seuss, opens on June 16.

True, the theater experience may look a bit different than in past seasons. For instance, the first two shows of this season will be held outside – and one of them is in a quarry! The decision was made to do the early shows outside due to Covid-19 concerns. The last two shows return to the stage at the Cedar River Complex in Osage, at the Krapek Family Fine Arts Center.

Outdoor performances are a challenge, but CST will easily meet the logistical issues related to sets, sound and lighting, Lee said. That will happen in large part to the crackerjack staff and troupe selected for this season’s shows. The student actors, crew and musicians come from 12 states and are all enrolled in nationally-recognized theater arts programs. The majority of the troupe’s members are made up of students who had landed spots in the 2020 season before it was cancelled. They were invited, without another audition, to perform this season. Of those 2020 applicants, Lee said, only two opted out of the season, due to other commitments. 

That overwhelming response to come to the CST, Lee said, shows the quality of experience honed in the theater’s early seasons and reflects its growing reputation. A widening circle of college fine arts students has heard about the unique Iowa theater — the only one of its kind in the Upper Midwest, Lee said – and want to be a part. 

“And the quality just keeps getting better and better,” she added. “We had over 200 applicants (of students looking for a spot in the troupe) for the season.”

The actors, she added, are “all so incredibly talented.”

“Every one of them can do it all — sing, dance, act – they are really something,” she said. 

Directors Craig Johnson, C Ryan Shipley and Lee will all direct shows; Barb Portinga also returns as the costume designer, as does wardrober Angie Klaes. Sue Ellen Berger also returns as production coordinator and light designer. New staff includes Robin McIntyre, who will serve as technical director and scenic designer, and choreographers Joey Miller and Heidi Noble. Marti Steele once again is the company manager.

Here is a quick overview of the season:

  • “Seussical” – Opens June 16 with performances split between the garden area at South Square in St. Ansgar and City Park in Osage. The fun event will feature Mitchell County kids with the college troupe in bringing the Dr. Seuss characters to life.
  • “Godspell” – Opens July 1 at the Duenow Quarry near St. Ansgar. Yes, a quarry — a great setting for a story that follows the life of Jesus based on the Gospel of Matthew. The show – wildly popular and often presented – celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. 
  • “Addams Family” – Opens July 15 at the CRC. “The show is fun, witty, and fast-moving,” Lee said. The show follows the creepy-but-funny adventures (Wednesday’s wedding to a “normal” guy!) of the Addams Family. Mitchell County high school students will join the cast for this show.
  • “Regarding Broadway” – Opens July 29 at the CRC. Craig Johnson and C Ryan Shipley co-wrote this rollicking show whose fun springs from the vaudeville tradition of dance, skits, and lots of lively and familiar music. An added bonus will be the first-ever Cedar Arts Fest that will be held prior to Saturday performances on July 31 and Aug. 7 in the CRC atrium and the nearby Mitchell County Historical Museum – so audience-goers are urged to come early and enjoy the fest.

All involved are excited about returning to the stage, Lee said.

“In fact, this is going to be our pinnacle year,” she said, adding the cancellation of the season a year ago has made people even more hungry for live theater. There is increased enthusiasm about the return of performances this year.

“People are so happy to know we’re back,” she said. “And, people know us now; we don’t have to explain who we are anymore. People are really looking for us to return – and we are so happy to be back.”

“Seussical” performance times:  Times will vary due to the change in venues. For more, go to: cedarsummerstock.org

South Square

202 S Washington St., St. Ansgar

June 16-17, 7 p.m.        

June 18, 10 a.m.

Osage City Park Band Shell 

809 Sawyer Dr., Osage

June 20 & 27, 2 p.m.            

June 23, 24 & 26, 7 p.m.

Lawn chairs! Those attending “Seussical” and “Godspell” should bring lawn chairs if possible – but if you forget yours, there will be some on hand at the venue, too.

Tickets: In lieu of season tickets, a four-performance pass will be used to offer more flexibility for theater-goers. Season tickets purchased for the 2020 season will be honored this summer.

For more and to order tickets, go to: www.cedarsummerstock.org or by calling the box office at 763-312-8319.